The original million dollar badass.
The patron saint of women entrepreneurs.
America’s first woman millionaire.
My business fairy godmother.
I’m talking about Sarah Breedlove, more famously known as Madam C. J. Walker.
(I did say in a previous Bulletin I wrote in December that it wouldn’t be the first or the last time that I’d be writing about her, so gather ‘round and get comfy!)
If you’ve never heard about Madam C. J. Walker, you could open Netflix and watch an 8-part series entitled “Self Made,” — a dramatized account of her story, starring Academy-award winning actress Octavia Spencer.
But if you don’t have time to watch an entire series right now, here’s a quick summary for you:
Sarah Breedlove was born on a Louisiana plantation on December 23, 1867, just two years after the 13th Amendment was ratified. She was the only member of her immediate family that was born free.
Her parents both died by the time she was 7 years old. At 17, she became a mother to her only child, A’Lelia. By 20, she was a widow. She moved to St. Louis where she worked as a laundress to be able to send A’Lelia to school.
Fast forward a few years — Sarah started working for a black woman entrepreneur, Annie Malone, selling her hair care products. Sarah had suffered from significant hair loss since the 1890’s, and she decided to use what she learned working for Annie to solve this problem for other Black women.
At the age of 39, Sarah became known as Madam C. J. Walker and started her own company — and soon, she became America’s first woman millionaire.
Madam’s journey has always resonated with me for 3 reasons.
1. Her story makes me think back to my life before I became a millionaire. I experienced poverty firsthand. I was born into a community that didn’t fuel my motivation, and I didn’t have anything handed to me. I’ve had to work my Black ass off for every single thing I own. And that’s what she had to do, too.
2. Can you imagine becoming a millionaire as a Black woman with enslaved parents less than 50 years after the end of slavery? Madam was tenacious and resilient enough to do what was virtually impossible.
3. Not only did Madam use her wealth to empower herself, she also used it to empower other Black women. She gave them jobs, economic mobility, and financial stability. She motivated them to speak out about social injustice. She changed other people’s lives just as much as she changed her own life. And our mission at Hello Seven mirrors that — we want to help other underrepresented people make more money through entrepreneurship.
Years ago, before Hello Seven was even called Hello Seven, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chat with Madam’s great great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles.
During our conversation, I got to hear, firsthand, the impact that a Black woman’s legacy can have on her family for multiple generations — and that really struck a chord with me.
First of all, Madam didn’t get a formal education, but she made it her duty to ensure that her daughter went to school. Fast forward a few generations, her great great granddaughter A’Lelia attended Harvard and Columbia. She then went on to write a book about Madam’s life, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker. And it became the basis of that Netflix series I was talking about earlier, “Self Made.”
A’Lelia’s mother also did great things. She attended Howard University and worked as the Vice President of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, years after Madam died.
It’s amazing that Madam’s decision to prioritize education in her daughter’s life set off a domino effect of academic and professional excellence in the generations that followed her.
Nearly 100 years after Madam died, companies like Sephora and Walmart carried hair care lines in her name — and her family was very involved in the process of getting those products out into the world.
Madam’s story didn’t die when she transitioned from this earth — it still lives on through the powerful Black women that came after her.
It sends shivers down my spine just thinking about the opportunities and the wealth that exploded from Madam’s life into her family, and the fact that her legacy still lives on, a whole century later.
THAT is the kind of impact I want to have in my children’s lives, their children’s lives, and their children’s children’s lives.
And that’s the kind of legacy I want for you, too.
As we close out Black History Month and enter Women’s History Month, I want us all to take 3 lessons from Madam’s life.
1. Your circumstances do not define you.
YOU define you. You get to write your own story. You have everything you need to create your legacy, even if it seems like you have very little.
2. The decisions you make now aren’t just for you.
They’re for your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Make smart moves with your money, your resources, and your connections.
3. Help the people around you.
Use your wealth for good. Create opportunities for other people. The world becomes a better place when women and other marginalized groups have more money.
If you’re ready to create a legacy like the one Madam C. J. Walker left behind, join the waitlist for We Should All Be Millionaires: The Club.
The Club is specifically designed to help you create your million dollar story, so that you can build and enjoy the mind-blowing wealth you deserve. You’ll also open doors for your family, and create positive generational cycles.
The Club doors are closed right now, but we’re opening them again very soon with a new and improved coaching and community experience that you can’t afford to miss.